Tipping Points, or Why We Really Tip

“Where is Mr. Frank?”

Mr. Frank was hiding in the back seat of a truck, in the south of Guyana, when he heard the words. He tried to duck down a little, because he knew what was coming.

“Oh,” I heard a woman in our group say, “He’s over there.” She pointed my way. A few moments later, a face appeared in my open window.

“Hello, Mr. Frank! Do you have something you can bath me?”

It was Sebastian, the guide from the village who had just hiked up and back down a mountain with our group. We were in a part of the world where tourism had only recently arrived, where not long ago there was barely even a cash economy, and where people’s English, although it is the official language, was not always so good.

“Bath you?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

I puzzled over the word for a second, but I already knew what he meant. I nodded wearily and dug in my pockets for some money – not a lot, but then again, maybe too much. I had no idea. We’d been told that at the end of the trip, we would give a group tip that would be divided among all the guides who had helped us. But the rules for these things were murky.

Read the rest here.

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